Author: Sare Liz
Disclaimer: Belongs to JKR.
Rating: R, for violence alluded to
Word Count: 2,800
Author's Note: Happy Easter. This is a Semana Santa gift to my flist so it's not cross posted, and is unbetaed, so, ykno, whatever. Resurrection themes? Love is stronger than hate, life is stronger than death. Easter isn't just about one man's tada!moment, it's a pattern of the universe, I'm convinced. And so I spent my Easter Vigil writing fic. Alleluia.
Additional Note: Is now beta'ed! Thanks, Frannie, for giving me a beta over the kitchen table. ::Smooches::
The courier walked up to the couple as they were sitting, chatting in the sun over lattes. Observant people on the whole, the presence of the courier threw them off, and they entirely missed other, equally notable things. They missed, for instance, the random bloke who very casually put his bag down, started to read his paper, checked his watch, and then hurried off again.
If they hadn't been so occupied with the curious matter of the letter received in the middle of an outdoor café, they certainly would have noticed that the random bloke never did pick his bag back up again in his rush to hurry off. No one else seemed to notice, either, or if they did they didn't care.
The man would be lucky if someone didn't steal it before he realized his error, everyone might say. But no one said, actually. And few remembered the curious incident of the bloke and his bag, particularly after the ambulances came, and the police had pulled people from the rubble.
Viktor watched with curiosity as Hermione opened the letter. It wasn't completely unusual to receive a note by courier, but it did imply something. As couriers were discrete and expensive, the sender was usually quite affluent. They were also more reliable than owls, and significantly less likely to draw attention in the middle of the day in a Muggle situation. But it didn't look like a British Ministry courier at all, not that Viktor was an expert. He was getting to know this country's dynamics, though, its rhythms, and this was out of synch, somehow. He could read it in Hermione. Her quick and nervous look up at him reassured Viktor that she too was at a loss in knowing what was going on.
She slit the envelope open and Viktor wondered at the lack of sealing wax. That was a bit unusual as well, but there might be reasons enough for its absence. She pulled out a small, stiff card of paper and read it. Viktor watched as her brow furrowed. She reached for her wand, handed the card to him and glanced around her all at once. Viktor reached for the obviously disturbing message with his left hand as his right readied his wand and held it on his lap, under the table.
The note was brief, but then it would be. It was in a tight, hurried hand – no dictoquill penned this note, and that was a thought that was stored away for later.
Viktor's head jerked up. Without thinking he pocketed the note and picked up the small shopping bag that the couple had been toting around all day. With a thoughtless twirl of his fingers around the handle, like a slight of hand artist, the bag twirled and swung and landed neatly and now tiny in the palm of his hand. He pocketed that as well. All the while he stared into her eyes, thinking perhaps the same thing that she was – one does not simply disapparate in the middle of a café in Muggle London, so why has someone warned us to do just that? And how time sensitive were couriers, anyway?
Hermione reached her left hand across the table, waiting for him to touch her so they could disapparate together. He hesitated. Did she really mean to do this? He looked in her eye and saw a fearful determination.
"Vere?" he asked, as he slipped his fingers past hers to grab onto her wrist. He watched her eyes dart around. He wondered if apparating to the alley beyond the square would be sufficient, or if they ought to get out of Greater London entirely.
"Let me lead you," she said in a low voice, and Viktor had to squash down some very realistic worries concerning splinching. With all of the upheaval, such Ministry Reversal Squads were in short supply. Really, Ministry services in general were in short supply.
Viktor looked up to see the slightly glazed look in her eye that Hermione got when she was silently spellcasting. He didn't know what sort of charms she was weaving around the two of them, and he left her to it without interference – this was, after all, her country and her culture, and she would know what best to do – but if it were up to him, he'd cast a spell for silence and another for confusion.
It was only a moment later that she was finished, with her eyes coming back to focus on him again. A moment later they were gone, but something had gone wrong in the instant that they left. The one who disapparates and reapparates never hears the loud cracking sound that their departure and arrival inevitably make, but he heard a sound all the same, a loud ear-splitting sound that defied the imagination. But now they were standing in the back garden of her parent's house. It was a weekend and the sounds of Radio One were drifting out and beyond the open windows. Their heads turned toward each other at nearly the same moment.
"All right? All ten fingers, ten toes, nothing missing?" she asked with a small grin, despite the strangeness of their situation, and the danger that they may or may not have just skirted.
Viktor nodded. "Ve should tell Harry about this," he said, and watched her eyebrows raise. Was it so surprising that he could rise over his own issues at a time like this?
"I agree. But first I'd like to know what exactly happened."
And it was then that the song stopped in the middle, abrupt even as it drifted and floated over the garden. The reporter announced that someone had just detonated a bomb in London, and that no one had yet claimed responsibility.
"I told you, I received the note. The courier came straight to me. It was clearly a private courier. A young man, wearing a dark blue jumper and a pair of black trousers. Dark hair. Non-descript face – it might have been a glamour, but quite honestly I didn't bother to look closely enough. It was unusual, yes I've received couriered letters before, but never from this service."
"From whom have you received couriered letters in the past, Ms. Granger?"
"I've received them from the ministry, from the service that the ministry usually uses, always concerning my work at the Department of Mysteries and so no, I shall not say anymore about that, and I have received couriered letters from Professor Dumbledore, when he was alive."
"Did the courier at any point seem to want to give the note to Mr. Krum?"
"No. Absolutely not. You know how couriers are – they always know their intended recipient and they go straight for them. The courier came straight to me and handed the note to me. I opened it."
"Then why was the note found with Mr. Krum?"
"As I said, I opened it, I read it, and I handed it to Viktor so he could read it. Given the surprising and disturbing nature of the note, I didn't feel safe reading in public like that. I handed it over to him, and I very discretely got out my wand, just in case. He read it and he got out his wand as well. He put the note away, got our shopping bag and put it away, and we held hands over the table. Our left hands, not our wand hands. I cast a few privacy spells – as you found in my wand – and then I apparated both of us into my parent's garden."
"Where we found you several hours later with Mr. Krum, and the Drs. Granger."
"Yes, exactly. How much longer is this going to last, if you don't mind me asking? Only it's been a difficult day, I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I'm sure my parents are worried about us."
"I think it would be alright if you go home now, Ms. Granger. We may want to speak with you again, but we will owl you first, if that is the case."
"Excellent. Thank you very much. Where can I meet Viktor?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, miss. Mr. Krum is still being questioned."
"And when will Mr. Krum have finished his questioning?"
"Hard to say, miss."
"Try anyway, if it's all the same to you."
"Well, it's hard to say. But him what's got ties to dark wizards, it may be a while yet."
"Having gone to Durmstrang does not tie him to dark wizards. Being a foreign national does not tie him to dark wizards. Having an accent and a temper does not tie him to dark wizards. He received the Order of Merlin, for heaven's sake! He trounced America in the World Cup! How much do you people want?"
"Now, now miss. There's no call for that."
"You're right. I'm sorry. You have no control over his release, of course. I apologize. I'd like to see the auror in charge, if you please."
"Right, miss. This way, miss."
Harry sat back in what Viktor knew to be the younger man's favorite chair and looked long at Hermione. It was the meaningful sort of glance between old friends that Viktor would never be able to penetrate. Seven years as school friends was quite a base, not to mention all that happened after graduation. No, he mused, there were parts of his beloved that he just couldn't reach, and mostly they were parts that Harry Potter could.
He tamped down his emotion and walked to the large armchair she was in. He half sat on the arm and folded his own across his chest. He knew he was scowling, and he knew his posture didn't help, but the meaningful glances between the other two were beginning to put him over the top. No sooner had he done it, though, than he felt a touch above his elbow. The touched begged him not to cross his arms, but rather to be relaxed, to hold her hand. He did.
"Viktor, Harry has just confirmed for me what I had hoped would not be. We both recognize the writing, but it only makes things more muddled, for me, at least."
Viktor look over and down at her, an eyebrow raised. She did enjoy being dramatic, not that she would see it that way. He was patient, instead of feeding into the pathos of the situation. He waited in silence.
"Draco Malfoy wrote this note."
That, Viktor thought, was very interesting indeed. It was hard to take Malfoy seriously at the best of times to say nothing of the worst, but perhaps he'd changed?
"I thought I told you to come alone, Granger."
"Alexi doesn't count. He's a dog. Besides, you don't think I'm stupid, do you? You really meant that you didn't want me to tell Harry. You didn't want Harry here. Well, Harry's not here, and I'm eager to find out why I am. …And why you wrote that note."
"Look you mudblood bitch, don't you dare – shit woman! Call your dog off!"
"Be nice to me, Draco, or he might just rip your balls off. He's like that. Call it a personality quirk. Now, are we just here to rehash old times, trade insults, that sort of thing? Because I do have other things to do, you know. I'm sure you do as well."
"Well, if you'd shut up a minute."
"Thank you. You know I wrote that note."
"Yes. Your handwriting. I still remember it from all of those nasty notes you used to pass in double potions."
"I saved your life, you know."
"That hadn't escaped my notice. Thank you. Viktor sends his thanks as well. But I do wonder that the valor of saving our lives might not be somewhat diminished by planning their end, and the end of so many others besides."
"We never planned to kill wizards."
"No! You don't see, do you? You don't see anything! No one does! Certainly no one at the Ministry, those fools. But we'll get people to see. They'll understand soon enough."
"Do they know that you warned me?"
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you think they might get upset, that you warned someone to leave? After all, I'm muggleborn. I work for the ministry. I fought against you in the war, as did Viktor."
"They don't know. They don't need to know. Besides, where do you think the money would come from, if something happened to me?"
"I imagine they would work something out. I rather suppose they are the resourceful, if not inventive type. You're not as indispensable as you think you are, Draco. No one is."
"It's not as if I've got a boatload of options at this point, Granger."
"You could hand yourself in. Tell them what you know. Your recent altruism works in your favor. There are a few open minded Aurors with whom you could meet. I'd start with Nymphadora Tonks, if I were you. You might come out on top if you exercise the charm and good sense of which we all suspect you are capable."
"Fine words, Granger. Can't really bring myself to believe them, though."
"You can take them or leave them. It's up to you. I don't even know why I am here."
"Fine. Get the hell out of here then."
"Damn it, Draco! What the hell is going on? You're going to have to spell it out to me."
"I think that would be a supremely bad idea, all things considered. Goodbye, Granger. I'll think about what you said."
"All right. I'm listening. You've got that look on your face. What the hell just happened?"
He loved her so much, and yet there were points at which they were so different. Even without the incredible sense of smell he had in Animagus form, it would have been bloody obvious to him. But how to say it? It goes without saying that she needed to know and he couldn't keep it from her, but how does one delicately put these sorts of things?
"Did you notice anything peculiar about his manner?"
"Viktor, I'm sorry, but I'm really frustrated here, and as much as I appreciate what you're trying to do, just tell me what you saw. I want to know whatever ugly truth there is before we go back to Grimmauld."
"Is not easy for me to do, Hermione."
Her arms came around his waist and she buried her face in his shoulder. He heard a familiar murmur that sounded much like an apology. He waited until she looked up to speak.
"I do not know why, and I cannot know for how long it has been going on, but Draco Malfoy has very strong feelings for you. Loff? Maybe. I do not know, but it bleeds out his eyes ven he looks at you and he gives off enough pheromone to fill a bottle."
"You're serious, aren't you?"
"He knew I vos there, or that somevon vos there, and so he said nothing. For this reason, I think, he vonted you alone."
"I had no idea. Viktor, I had no idea."
He grinned a little, and bent down to rest his forehead against hers. "That much is very clear."
"I'm glad you were there, Vitya. And I'm glad he knew you were there."
His heart was warmed as he looked into her eyes, heard his name roll off her tongue. So much of his life had become hinged around her. He fought in the war because he couldn't bear the thought of her fighting alone. He accepted a contract with a British team because he couldn't bear a commuting relationship, and his job was more flexible than hers. He combined his household with hers because he hated leaving early, or waking up alone, and she felt she was too young for marriage yet.
And yet she wasn't too young for an Order of Merlin, First Class. She wasn't too young for a prestigious post within the Department of Mysteries. She wasn't too young to be convincing terrorists to mend their ways. Maybe she wasn't too young to be married, not anymore.
He kissed her, and she kissed him back. A long, languid, knowing kiss, it left his heart beating faster. He wondered how quickly they ought to get back to Grimmauld, and in the end decided against anything more than their kiss. There would be time enough later – after Harry, after her parents, after his parents. Later tonight, in the privacy of their home he would cook something for her. They would have red wine with their meal and coffee with desert, strong and sweet. He would put on the radio and ask her to dance.
They would dance slowly around the sofa and chairs, over and over again, and when the song ended, he would ask her. It wouldn't be the first time they'd talked about it. It wouldn't be the first time he'd asked. And yet, he rather thought that this time the answer might be different. And regardless of the answer, he had every intention of making love with her until the wee hours of the morning. Whether it was an act of celebration or a measure designed to convince mattered less to him right now. It was all a celebration, of sorts. They were alive, after all.